McConchie vows to close problematic double-pensions loophole for fire chiefs
State Sen. Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorne Woods) sees great urgency in crafting legislation designed to put a stop to what he sees as one of the latest schemes to abuse state taxpayers.
“Retire, start receiving a pension, then go back to the same line of work to earn six-figure salary on the taxpayers and a second pension,” McConchie recently posted on Facebook in response to a Daily Herald analysis that finds a growing number of suburban fire chiefs are engaging in such a practice.
“This cannot continue,” he added. “Starting work to pass legislation to stop this abuse.”
In all, the Herald reports at least 15 suburban fire chiefs are now earning salaries in excess of $100,000 while also collecting public pensions and moving toward securing another one.
State Rep. Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville) has also joined McConchie in his crusade, and is planning to introduce legislation similar to the package he pushed and helped get passed in 2017 for police.
Set to go into effect at the start of the year, that law prohibits retired officers from collecting state pensions from joining another force and becoming eligible to receive a second pension.
"It's an egregious abuse of the pension systems that allows someone to collect a retirement benefit while still working in the same line of work," Wehrli told the Herald.
For the 15 fire chiefs now known to be so benefiting, the average salary stands at just under $138,000 and the pension packages average in the neighborhood of $105,000.
According to the Herald, current Carol Stream Fire Protection District chief Robert Hoff’s Chicago Fire Department pension payments of $122,472 actually top his new salary of $113,645.
Alan Wax, currently the Des Planes fire chief, reportedly receives a combined income of $287,333, rating as the highest total payout. Wax, who collects a salary of $161,709 and a High Park Fire Department pension of $125,624, is slated to become vested in his new pension program in 2019.
On average, firefighters across the state contribute a shade under 10 percent of their pay toward their pensions. With most towns and fire districts having fallen woefully short of fully funding the plans in recent years, taxpayers have been left to shoulder even more of the burden.
Under the current structure, firemen are eligible to commence collecting pensions at age 50 at 75 percent of their final salary after three decades of service with annual raises of 3 percent.
The loophole allowing them to collect on second pensions is closed to most other public workers, including teachers, professors, legislators and librarians.